I hate being that person that says “I get asked this all the time” but I really do. Healthy snacks are hard to come by these days because companies are trying to create the next best bar, powder or handheld without taking the ingredients and sustainability into account. People know they should be eating 3 meals and maybe a few snacks a day, but they never know WHAT to eat. I can preach about how to create a sustainable meal, but snacks can get tricky because no one wants to cook a snack. So, let me share with you some healthy snacks you can have on the go!
Let us first remember that we want the bulk of our diet to come from whole, nutrient dense foods! This means cooking and preparing ahead of time is ideal! Always looking to have carbs, fats, protein and vegetables in your meals, but your snacks don’t necessarily need to be this way. Most people say we should be aiming for 5 servings of fruits and vegetables, so if you double up on a few of your main meals, you won’t need veggies in your snacks.
When we are talking snacks, the main focus should be protein. This is because most people have a hard time getting the adequate amount of protein in their diet, but also because most snack/quick foods we lean for are typically fat/carb heavy! So start with a protein source, and add to that to make it a sustainable snack. Protein is also important because it will help keep your blood sugar levels in ideal ranges, but also keep you fuller for an extended period of time. For example, if you opt for a bag of chips as a snack, you are usually looking for something else to eat a few hours, maybe even minutes, later. If you go for something whole like fruit and yogurt or a protein shake, you are typically full for a lot longer. And fuller longer means less calories in which typically leads to…..fat loss, because the protein helps to hang onto muscle mass!
If you are going to opt for a pre-made snack, make sure you are reading the nutrition label! I think sometimes we get caught up in the buzz words like “organic” and “all natural” that we forget to check to see what is really in it. Why? Because they now make ORGANIC gummy bears….what? Yes. And that is NOT a snack you want to be grabbing as a pick-me-up, because it is NOT going to make you feel better! Anyways, nutrition labels…
When you are looking at the ingredients, you ideally would want to have 8 ingredients or less. This leaves little room for 1. things you cannot pronounce and 2. too many chemicals/additives that make it “low calorie”. I have said it before and I will continue to preach it…we do NOT need to be eating “fat free” or “low calorie” or “low carb”. If we focus on eating whole, nutrient dense foods, there is not need to be counting numbers and eliminating foods. Check the SUGAR content, we know pre-packaged food usually comes with a high sugar content, because they need to make it taste good somehow! Here is a great blog post written by yours truly that explains how the sugar affects or bodies and brains! A few ingredients I would stay away from are things like sucralose, xylitol, aspartame, sorbitol, erythritol, splenda etc. These are all sugar alcohols that your body does NOT know how to process, yet are a zero calorie option companies use!
Make sure when you are looking at the nutrition label, you are checking what 1 serving is! A lot of times we see the macronutrient grams (carbs, fats, protein) and think it is a decent snack, but we don’t notice that the amount of 1 serving is for…a 3 year old child. Or, sometimes a “package” you assume is a single serving, is actually 2-3 servings! So just make sure you check out the serving size and measure it out, or make sure the entire package is 1 serving before diving in.
• Cottage Cheese
• Rice cake (with nut butter)
Easy snack that will hit all your necessary Macronutrients (carbs, fats, protein, vegetable) in one swipe!
Layer it all on your rice cake and enjoy, super simple and delicious!
• Chicken/tuna/egg salad
• Yogurt with fruit/granola
• Deli meat with string cheese
• Hard boiled eggs
• Cantaloupe wrapped in Prosciutto
• Leftovers (????)
• Chia seed pudding
• Overnight Oats
Spread hummus on crackers and top with choice of meat. I like the beef stick because it is an easy, on the go snack! Just grab your stick, personal size hummus and a box of crackers and you have a great snack on the go!
• Protein powder/shakes (I prefer Nuzest, Nutraorganics, Amazing Grass)
• Protein bars (I like RXBars, Rise Bar, Square Organics, Epic Bar)
• Beef sticks
• Trail Mix
• Dry roasted Chickpeas/Legumes
So…did you notice the pattern? When it comes to snacks, keep it light and simple, but always make protein a priority. If we get too caught up in needing/wanting snacks that are new and fresh, we will lose sight of protein content. So think protein first, because carbs and fats are easy to find!
I also want to remind you that SNACKS, are just that…snacks. They aren’t meant to take place of a meal, and if they are a quick/grab and go alternative…it shouldn’t take place of a home cooked meal! Snacks are meant to be something to tide you over, or to give you fuel on the go. So remember that when you go to take the easy way out and grab a bar for breakfast instead of taking the time to cook some eggs and sausage!